ROWLING IN THE AISLES
Re Michael Atkinson's "The Broom of the System" [June 25-July 1]:
Michael Atkinson's review of the new Potter tome was marvelous. Funny, balanced, insightful: I only hope that Rowling herself gets to read it. I wrote a review of the book myself after (I confess) reading it over the weekend, and one observation I have to add to Atkinson's wonderfully playful insights has to do with the corporal punishment that the evil Umbridge inflicts on Harry with the bewitched pen that inscribes his crime on his skin. I couldn't help but think of Franz Kafka's "In the Penal Colony," one of that author's more horrific stories. Children's literature, heh, heh.
I assume there's a review of the actual book or story in this article, but I really didn't have the hour or so to glean it out of this diatribe.
Atkinson seems to disdain the publishing business in general and to believe that all its offspring, no matter their merit, are saturated with an evil corporate ooze that perverts texts into Happy Meal tie-ins. An author cannot help dealing with the publishing industry in order to get a book published. But why do you assume Rowling has been mutated into a corporate goon?
I have enjoyed the previous Potter books, and my brains have not been scooped outas far as I know. Reading them took up a very small portion of my life, and I have no official Harry Potter posters, blankets, living room sets, or credit cards. I just read the books, enjoyed them, and went on with my life.
I still need to know: Did Atkinson like the book? I really can't tell. I know he thinks "it fellates," but I need a more direct answer for my diminished intellectual capacity.
Gideon Scott Gordon
BOLLING FOR THE 'TIMES'
Re Ruben Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug [June 4-10]:
Ruben Bolling's cartoon suggests that Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter, has been unfairly castigated because he is black. This, frankly, is a ridiculous idea.
Bolling's notion that white reporters are exempt from scrutiny is equally ridiculous. I would like to remind Bolling of the names Stephen Glass, Mike Barnicle, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Stephen Ambrose, all of whom were punished in one way or another for their transgressions, and all of whom are white. Who exactly are these black and Arab American reporters Bolling claims are being unfairly harassed?
Ruben Bolling replies: Mr. Lee totally missed the point of that comic strip. I never implied that Jayson Blair was "unfairly castigated"; I was careful to point out that all of my fictional reporters, white and black, were properly fired. My point was that when a white reporter fabricates or plagiarizes, it's seen as a pathological casea fraud perpetrated by an individual. But in Jayson Blair's case, some saw the frauds he committed as a systemic indictment of affirmative action or diversity programs. I was commenting not on any racially disparate treatment of the offenders, but rather on a racially disparate view of the underlying cause of the fraud and its institutional implications.
Sydney H. Schanberg's "A Legend in His Own Mind" [June 25-July 1]:
It is important to remember the actions of those in public office who profess to represent the people. Keep reminding us, so that in the event that Giuliani does decide to run for office again, we'll all know not to give him our vote. Like Donna, we are lucky to be rid of the man.
For such an interesting and accurate critique, Richard Goldstein's "Against His Will" [June 25-July 1] sure was tough to read. I kept asking myself what about it was bothering me, until I hit this phrase:
"But this is not about raping someone; it's about allowing yourself to have one of the culture's most gripping fantasies of potency, for better or worse."
I usually agree with that idea: Inclusion/equality/power means complete access to the culture, its meanings, its expressionfor better or worse. I reserve my right to problematic and unsanitized opinions and ideas, and see it as central to my own sense of freedom. In the case of rape fantasies, however, I'd rather we didn't aspire to have access to them "for better or worse." It's not the most intellectually astute thing I will say in my life, but as a rape survivor, I have to say it: "Worse," in this instance, is worse than Goldstein allowed his words to conjure up.
Janine de Novais
Richard Goldstein replies: This piece was as hard to write as it must have been for you to read. No doubt it would be a better world if rape fantasies weren't such a compelling metaphor for power, but to many people they are. The question I addressed was why gay menand womenare virtually always shown in the victim role. I hold that the reason has less to do with the human psyche than with enforcing the sexual order. My piece was based on the play Take Me Out, in which a gay man rapes a straight man. If homosexuals can be shown playing this role, it may signal a change in their sense of power.
Re Nat Hentoff's "U.S. Black Leaders Confront Mugabe" [June 18-24]:
Do you think that all "black leaders" lead all blacks? Do you think that there should be any diversity of opinion among black children, black housewives, black criminals, black military personnel, black hip-hoppers, black beauticians, black cannibals? Do you think that they all should be of one mind, robotically conforming to the establishment's whims? I reserve the right to my own personal viewpoint, no matter if it conforms to pseudo-liberal expectations or not.
Nat Hentoff replies: There is diversity of opinion among all humankind. Some fight tyranny. Some approve it. And others suffer under it.
Re Ward Sutton's Schlock 'n' Roll:
The only problem with Ward Sutton's cartoons is that he can't create them faster. This country needs more than one dose of Schlock 'n' Roll per week for the sake of mental health.
Palos Verdes, California
In Adrienne Kennedy's tribute to the late Joseph Chaikin [July 9-15], the year 1976 was inadvertently printed as 1971 due to a transcriber's error.
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